The Veterans Affairs hearing aid program

March 4, 2013 by Cédric Bégnoche

Le programme des appareils auditifs des Anciens Combattants

It is widely known that noise in the work environment can cause hearing loss. We often think of people who work or have worked in industrial jobs, but the same applies to military personnel and veterans. In fact, this portion of the population appears to be much more affected by hearing problems than the civilian population.

An American study performed by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) in the 1990s showed that when all their age categories and occupations were analyzed together, veterans were 30% more likely to be affected by severe hearing loss than the rest of the population. Here in Canada, realizing the scope of the problem for veterans and active military personnel, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of National Defence carried out a joint study in the early 2000s, over a period of two years, to determine the risk factors associated with hearing loss for members of the Canadian Forces.

The study was conducted on five different military bases. First, participants were asked to undergo a hearing screening and fill out a questionnaire in order to establish the different risks to which they were exposed. Then, those in at-risk positions were chosen at random to wear a device that measured noise during their work shift. The various results provided a better understanding as to how to minimize the risks of hearing loss and therefore improve how help is offered to those who are affected by hearing loss.

In accordance with the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act (CFMVRCA), which aims to help veterans regain their autonomy and to promote their social adaptation, Veterans Affairs Canada offers those veterans who are eligible under this act a program that helps clients who are affected by hearing loss.

A few steps are required to take advantage of this program. First, the person must contact the office of Veterans Affairs for information on the steps to follow. Generally, the person will first be directed to an audiologist for a hearing evaluation. An audiology report will then be sent to person’s representatives for evaluation of the case. If the link between the hearing loss and the person’s military activities is established, the Department will cover most of the costs related to the hearing evaluation and the hearing aids. Sometimes a pension can also be granted. Once the hearing evaluation has been performed and is accepted by Veterans Affairs, the person can then make an appointment with the audioprosthetist and proceed with a hearing aid fitting. Several models of hearing aids are covered.

For some advanced-technology models, authorization is required to prove that the patient requires this type of model. Once the hearing aid has been chosen, the person will benefit from post-prosthetic services, such as performance verification and repairs or readjustments of the hearing aids. Batteries and a storage case are also provided. Note that the cleaner (VapoLobe) is not covered by this program.

In sum, it is reassuring to know that the Department of Veterans Affairs offers support to veterans affected by hearing problems and has implemented different actions to minimize this problem for future generations.

If you have any questions on this program, do not hesitate to see an audioprosthetist at one of the Lobe Santé auditive et communication multidisciplinary clinics.